Patient’s Guide to Prescription Drugs: Brand Name Drugs vs Generic Drugs

The FDA is currently on pace to issue more drug recalls in 2014 than it has in the past ten years.  Defective and unsafe prescription drugs can have serious health consequences for patients.  Because of this risk, patients need to be aware of their rights before filling a prescription.

Brand Name versus Generic Prescription Drugs: Is there any Difference?  

Patients often ask whether generic prescriptions drugs are as effective as brand name prescription drugs.  Under federal law, generic drugs are required to have the same active ingredients, route of administration, dosage form, strength, and labeling as their brand name counterpart. 21 U.S.C. §§ 355(j)(2)(A)(ii)–(v).

The question that patients often fail to ask is whether their rights are the same if they are injured by a generic prescription drug as opposed to a brand name.  Most patients would be surprised to learn that the answer is no.

The United States Supreme Court has held that a person injured by a brand name prescription drug that contains a defective warning can sue the manufacturer of the drug to recover for their injuries. Wyeth v. Levine, 555 U.S. 555 (2009).

However, although a brand name manufacturer can be sued, the United States Supreme Court has also held that a person injured by a generic prescription drug that contains a defective warning cannot sue the manufacturer of the drug to recover for their injuries. PLIVIA, Inc. v. Mensing, 131 S. Ct. 2567 (2011).

It is difficult to believe that the name on the bottle determines whether a patient can recover for their injuries caused by a defective drug, but this is unfortunately what federal law says.

What Options do Patients Have?

Within the State of Georgia patients are also unaware that under Georgia law a pharmacist is allowed to substitute a generic prescription drug for a brand name drug as long as the pharmacist determines that the generic prescription drug is pharmaceutically equivalent.  O.C.G.A. § 26-4-81(a).

It is entirely possible that a doctor could write a prescription for a brand name drug, the pharmacist who fills the prescription substitutes a generic drug in place of the brand name drug, and a Georgia patient is injured by the generic drug and left without a remedy.

To prevent the above hypothetical scenario from becoming a reality, Georgia patients should know that they can instruct their pharmacist not to substitute a generic prescription drug in lieu of the brand name drug.  O.C.G.A. § 26-4-81(f).

Prescription Drugs in the News

The prescription drug Risperdal, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, has been linked to the development of Gynecomastia.  Gynecomastia is a condition where men and boys develop enlarged breasts due to a hormone imbalance. Gynecomastia is a potentially serious condition, and patients should contact their health care provider if they exhibit symptoms.

The attorneys at Butler Tobin have taken on the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world to ensure justice for patients injured by unsafe prescription drugs. If you suspect that you have been injured by a prescription drug, contact our attorneys for a free consultation.